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The Palestine Liberation Organization has approved the launch of U.S.-brokered indirect peace talks with Israel after an 18-month break in negotiations.

The PLO's executive committee agreed to the U.S. proposal at a meeting Saturday in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas already had endorsed U.S.-mediated talks with Israel and had received support for the plan from the Arab League.

The plan calls for U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell to "shuttle" between Mr. Abbas in Ramallah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem over a four-month period.

Mr. Netanyahu welcomed the PLO decision and said his government wants talks without preconditions that lead to direct negotiations quickly.

Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo says the PLO agreed to the talks partly because it received U.S. guarantees regarding "Jewish settlements and the need to stop them," as he put it.

He said Washington also will take a firm position toward any "provocation" that could affect the negotiations. The Obama administration made no immediate comment on those issues.

U.S. envoy Mitchell met with Mr. Abbas in Ramallah Saturday and the two were expected to meet again Sunday. Mitchell also has met with Mr. Netanyahu in Jerusalem in recent days.

Members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas that runs the Gaza Strip denounced the PLO, saying indirect talks with Israel will provide cover for Israeli settlement activity.

Palestinians want Israel to stop building homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, lands Israel occupied after the 1967 Mideast war that are claimed by Palestinians for a future state.

Israel has frozen new housing starts in the West Bank since last November for a 10-month period, but has refused to stop building homes for Jews in East Jerusalem, which it claims as part of its "eternal" capital.

Palestinians have said they want indirect talks to focus on core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including borders of a future Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem.

Mr. Abbas' government broke off direct negotiations with Israel in December 2008 when Israeli forces launched an offensive in the Gaza Strip to stop rocket fire by Hamas militants on Israeli towns.

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